What are we doing wrong?
The aerospace industry is thriving, but the ratio of women to men working in the industry is still unbalanced. It is difficult to believe that in the 21st century, with so much emphasis on gender equality in the workplace, that women remain vastly under-represented in the aviation and aerospace sectors. Women comprised less than 6.4% of the commercial pilot workforce. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) figures are very similar, with about 16.5% of the workforce being female.
I ask this question: What are we doing wrong? How can we make a difference?
First, whether women in the aviation industry agree or not, we are all role models. We have to do a better job at marketing ourselves. We have to celebrate our successes. Men are not afraid to boast, why should we?
In early days when I was asked to speak at events, I used to look at myself and at my career, and I could not see what value-added I could contribute. What could I bring that was so special that would fascinate any crowd? What I realize now is that I bring success, I bring possibility, I bring potential and I bring dreams. So do all of you.
We are proof those young women can be successful in the aerospace industry, and that the journey is indeed worth it. So be out there and be visible! It can be very simple, such as career development day in high school, Scouts and Guides or any other types of engagements. Remember that you just have to be yourself to inspire!
Active mentorship is another tool. There are numerous organizations: Women in Aerospace, Women in Aviation International, Northern Lights, the 99s, and Canadian Women in Aviation, to name a few. In May of last year, a new organization called “La Force au Feminin” was launched here in Montréal with the mandate to support women from all walks of life to help them make their way to the success of their business and personal goals. Join! Be present, be active! We need to open the access to the new generation. We need to make it easy for these young ladies to get involves and network.
Finally, we have to be able to give young women hands-on experience early in their lives. I believe that we need to begin to attract women in primary school, because that is where dreams are made. I want to be able to tell every girl that looks up at a plane in the sky, or walks onboard an aircraft and sees the aircraft captain, that yes indeed she can be a pilot, or an astronaut or an engineer. She can be anything that she wants to be.
So I go back to my question. Can we increase and improve gender integration in the aerospace industry? Of course we can, but it will take some time and significant effort; however, if there is a will, there is a way and all of us have a role to play in this success. Be proud, be active, be visible.